Click here to skip to content

Oral history: business and finance

Oral history sound recordings held at the British Library Sound Archive include testimonies from those involved in the City of London, the food industry, the book trade, the press and the Post Office. These recordings explore changes in the corporate worlds of business and finance over the last sixty years and several recent projects focus on the histories of individual companies.

The City of London

  • City Lives (C409), a National Life Stories project, explores the little-known world of the financial capital. Support from the City enabled NLS to make 150 detailed recordings with representatives from the Stock Exchange, the merchant and clearing banks, the commodities and futures markets, law and accounting firms, financial regulators, insurance companies and Lloyd’s of London.
  • An Oral History of Barings (catalogue no: C1367), a National Life Stories project, was initiated in 2009 in collaboration with the Barings Archive.  The project aims to document the history of Barings Bank within living memory through the memories and experiences of those involved over the past sixty years, up to and including its collapse in 1995. 
  • Oral History of the Jobbing System of the Stock Exchange (Centre for Metropolitan History) (catalogue no: C463), was compiled to record the lives of those ‘jobbers’ involved in the profession of trading in stocks and shares on the floor of the London Stock Exchange, now a redundant trade due to the introduction of electronic trading in 1986, known as the ‘Big Bang’.
  • The Kynaston London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange (LIFFE) Interviews (catalogue no: C1053) is a series of interviews with employees and former employees of the London International Financial Futures & Options Exchange (LIFFE) conducted between May and August 1996 by David Kynaston, a historian who has written extensively about the history of City institutions. The interviews were recorded as part of the research for his book LIFFE: A Market and its Makers (Granta Editions, 1997).
  • The Kynaston Phillips & Drew Interviews (catalogue no: C1054) are a series of recordings with employees and former employees of the City investment group, Phillips & Drew (now incorporated into UBS Global Asset Management). The project was begun in 1983 by historian Dr W.J.Reader, and, after Dr Reader's death was continued until 1997 by David Kynaston. The interviews form the basis of the book, Phillips & Drew: Professionals in the City ( Robert Hale, 1998).

Businesses and corporations

  • An Oral History of Wolff Olins (C1015), a National Life Stories project, was established to conduct a series of life story interviews with a cross section of individuals who contributed to the development of Wolff Olins, one of Britain's leading brand consultancies.
  • An Oral History of the Post Office (C1007), a National Life Stories project, records the life stories of a wide range of Post Office staff in the UK and documents the enormous changes which have taken place in the stamp and postal services sector within living memory. The interviews extend from postmen and post women on their rounds to union officials, engineers and senior management.
  • Prudential Interviews (catalogue no: C910) is a collection of interviews with a range of employees of the Prudential Corporation plc (Prudential Assurance Company) as they prepared to vacate their head office in Holborn Bars, London, after nearly a century.

Money and finance

  • The Christie Davies debt collection and other recordings (catalogue no: C1069) comprises nine recordings. Seven were recording as background to a proposed BBC Radio programme on debt collection (catalogue nos: C1069/01-07) and two for a proposed BBC Radio programme called 'The Bouncing Cheque' (catalogue nos: C1069/08 and C1069/09).
  • Money and financial issues are also a main feature of the Millennium Memory Bank (C900) recordings. The recordings in the Millennium Memory Bank derived from the joint BBC and British Library project The Century Speaks: Millennium Oral History Project. This is one of the largest collections of oral history interviews ever to have been assembled - a unique and invaluable snapshot of how the British think of themselves and their past from the perspective of the beginning of a new millennium. One of the project themes was 'Money' which asked people about the effects of rising affluence on the average Briton, spending, saving, investing, borrowing, the mortgage, benefits, the dole and gambling.

Related recordings

Accessing the collections

To access oral history material:

  • Search for oral history recordings held at the British Library using the online Sound and Moving Image Catalogue (see useful advice on searching the oral history collections).
  • Onsite access to oral history recordings: The Listening and Viewing Service in St Pancras provides free public access to the oral history collections on an appointment basis. Many digital recordings are also available via SoundServer, a computerised listening facility located in the Humanities Reading Rooms.  SoundServer is also available at the British Library’s site in Boston Spa in Yorkshire.
  • Internet access to selected oral history recordings: The British Library Sounds website gives remote access to a selection of interviews from the Library’s oral history collections. Some recordings are currently only licensed to Higher and Further Education users in the UK, others are available for full public access.

Further information

Contact us

Oral History
The British Library
96 Euston Road
United Kingdom

T +44 (0)20 7412 7405 (Rob Perks, Lead Curator, Oral History  / Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7406 (Mary Stewart, Curator, Oral History / Deputy Director of National Life Stories)
T +44 (0)20 7412 7404 (Elspeth Millar, Archivist, Oral History)